Fire-induced reradiation underneath photovoltaic arrays on flat roofs

Jens Steemann Kristensen*, Bart Merci, Grunde Jomaas

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    The impact of the reflection of fire-induced heat from a gas burner was studied experimentally to gain knowledge on the interaction between photovoltaic (PV) panels and a fire on flat roofs. The heat flux was measured in a total of eight points at the same level as the top of the gas burner. The gas burner was placed underneath the center of a PV panel, installed in a geometry similar to a commercial east-west orientated mounting system, and the eight points were symmetrical pairs of two at four different distances from the burner. Measurements were compared with tests with no PV panel, and thereby without the reflection from the PV panel. A significant increase of the received heat flux was recorded, with ascending percentage-wise difference for increased heat release rates. This indicates that PV panels can have a significant contribution in roof fires, primarily because they stimulate fire spread over the roof on which they have been mounted. The received heat flux is higher underneath the most elevated part of the PV panel, due to two important, flame-related reasons: 1) the flame deflection toward the most elevated part of the panel and 2) a nonhomogeneous temperature distribution on the PV panel surface, due to the deflected flame, and thereby a nonhomogeneous emission from the heated PV panel. Finally, the results were very similar for a brand new PV panel and a PV panel tested for the fourth time, except during the period when the thin combustible film underneath the new PV panel is burning, supporting that it is the fire dynamics and not the fire load associated with the PV panels that is promoting fire spread associated with PV panels on flat roofs. With this in mind, the current results are relevant not only for PV panels but also for any inclined roof covering panel with limited combustibility.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalFire and Materials
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)316-323
    Number of pages8
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • PV panel fires
    • Reradiation
    • Heat flux measurements
    • Experiments


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